Thursday, October 27, 2011

RIF = Reinventing Radio

The recent lay offs in Radio now known as a Reduction In Force is sad especially for those with a pink slip.  The news stories and comments all over the web/social media lament the loss of our brothers/sisters in radio and much of the content is pretty negative on the bigger broadcasters and also on the state of radio.

Many wonder how radio will become a strong local force with fewer bodies in the building.  How will they create local content when much of it comes from programmers or computers or air talent in far away places?  Isn't 'Local' radio's ace in the hole with internet radio?

Radio is re-inventing itself and the priorities are different than the model we built in the 80s, and earlier that we all seem to cling to.  Some of it comes from consolidation, some from computers being able to do the work as well as network, there is new competition, new ratings systems, and new opportunities to distribute on new media.

We have woken up on a different planet.  The gravity is different allowing us to move quicker and the communication has evolved.  Yet we still seem to move in an organization that lives on the old planet.

Radio has had opportunities to evolve in the past and in many cases we've made valiant attempts, but in the end the foundations of the industry seem to struggle.  The pressure has built and now we are at a point where the structure within the stations will be clearly different ahead.

While it may be very hard to find good news here - there is!!  Just as radio became a desperate media in the 50s as TV hijacked the audience we took on a whole new structure.  Radio re-invented self on a new planet.  That time has clearly come again - in fact it's way over due.  Really we should have been evolving a lot more over the last 10 years as the internet and new media world has evolved.

If you are on the hunt to get back into radio, build your career, or hang on to your job there are new worlds to conquer and explore:

  • Social Media - A lot of our interaction and promotion within the audience will come from Social Media.  It doesn't matter if we can make money on it or not - we have to use social media to keep and build our relationship with the audience.  The good news is it doesn't cost much - but we do need more than just a bunch of random posts that the audience doesn't care about.  You need organization and a well orchestrated strategy.  'Commin up the new Blink 182 on The Rock' isn't 'interacting' with the social network.   
  • Have a REAL Presence in the community - The days of the jock showing up at an event and hanging out in some back office doing cut in breaks - avoiding the audience - are way over.  You got to work the crowd and make lots of friends where ever you can.  You can see that Clear Channel took out a lot of air staff members that were not top 3 in their daypart or of a huge value to the station.  If you're just a nice voice on the radio that hides in the sound proof control room it's real hard to hold your value.  Work the room and build your fans.   Yes it may be harder with fewer staffers to build community presence but take a long look at the effort we put out now and even in the days of big staffs.  Really it was mostly a few events and some client remotes.  Even if you are down to the last DJ you can do better.  
  • Understand the data - Just as Money Ball changed the baseball world with data in the 90s PPM is changing our world.  Even if you don't have PPM understand the new world of watching the real reaction of the audience to what we do on the air.   Also keep up on web metrics, Facebook interaction analysis, and how the audience is using apps.  We've never had so much data on the audience before and it's a lot to digest - but we'd better learn it or...... 
  • See the Future -  It's a whole new world and everyone needs to learn how to build their team in it.We have to be 'geeks' on technology - falling behind can be costly. 
  • Improve Management Skills - If you are a manager do your best to be organized and have a strategy.  Sending everyone out for a pass is usually a bad play and too often we just dive in.  It does take time but if you get organized and get your priorities set for every day you can lead everyone to accomplish a lot of the skills noted above.  

Yes, seeing the industry that we've all worked hard in and had lots of fun creating go through all these changes can be a struggle.   Is everything the bigger groups are doing in our industry right?  Maybe not - surely they will have some lemons.  But remember - the minute we stop changing and evolving is likely to be one of our last minutes.

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